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Reality Check Is YA dead?

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Robinne Weiss, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    I spent the weekend at the Storylines Children's Writers and Illustrators Hui in Auckland. In addition to the New Zealand authors, publishers and agents, there were literary agents from the US and Australia there. Many of them indicated that they feel YA is on the decline, and MG on the rise. Apparently the feeling is that kids are jumping from MG books straight to adult books (if they're reading at all between the ages of 13 and 16), and that YA has drifted to such adult content that it may as well be adult.

    It led me to switch manuscripts at the last minute for my pitch slam pitches to agents and publishers. I had planned on pitching a YA story, but thankfully had two MG stories ready as well.

    I was curious if any of you had heard and/or experienced the same. Is it harder to sell YA these days? Is it easier to sell MG? @AgentPete? Any thoughts?
     
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  2. Howard

    Howard Active Member

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    Been pondering this post since I read it this morning. I'm obviously neither part of the publishing industry nor a successful YA author, but my take is that the YA market is alive and well.
    Why do I say this? Well, look through the websites of any publishers/agents. They all have agents dedicated to YA books and are actively seeking more submissions. I think the issue is that the bubble has somewhat burst. After the insane success of Potter, the world looked for the next author to take up the mantle. A few have made valiant attempts, like Twilight (shudder) or Hunger Games, but none have been as successful and none have been aimed at the same market. Others have also been trotted out and occasionally turned into very bad films (*coughAllegiantcough*) but the well has rather dried.
    I think the issue is not that YA dead, but that there are no good YA submissions. Agents want them, but they are just not appearing.
     
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  3. James Marinero

    James Marinero Venerated Member

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    I betray my ignorance - what's MG? Millenial Generation?
     
  4. Howard

    Howard Active Member

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    Middle Grade. Pre-YA, essentially. Like the first Potter book.
     
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  5. James Marinero

    James Marinero Venerated Member

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    Thanks. Strangely I just discovered that in a post by @Robinne Weiss !
     
  6. Howard

    Howard Active Member

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    Yep.
     
  7. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    We repeat ourselves a lot here, don't we? Well, if it's worth saying once, it's worth saying again. :)
     
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  8. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    YA is a recent invention anyway. There have always been crossover childrens/adults books without benefit of that terminology.
     
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  9. Kitty

    Kitty Distinguished Member

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    As long as there are teenage readers there will be a market. However, the sorts of YA books selling will change. Vampires and dystopia are currently out of favour but everything goes full circle in time. :)
     
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  10. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Ah! That's just it. They were saying that the US high school curriculum has become so laden with reading assignments that teens aren't reading anything unless it's assigned at school. If you can get on that list, you're sorted, but if you don't make the list, you're doomed.
     
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  11. Amber

    Amber Member

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    I always assumed the reason the YA genre exploded was because adults were reading it. I imagine they have their stats but I personally don't care for middle grade. None of which answers your question. Except, maybe the last one.
     
  12. Amber

    Amber Member

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    What you were told doesn't make sense. The United States doesn't even have one reading list. It has over 50.

    Some things don't change. Romeo and Juliet is read by freshmen in high school, Hamlet as a junior or a senior. Scarlet Letter, 1984, Animal Farm, Mark Twain -- these are staples with individual states sometimes objecting to content and leaving certain books off of their list. And to be clear, it isn't always a 'state' list. The individual states have a lot of say in how education is handled with the federal government having very little say by way of contributing very little funds. The United States is more likely to not require young adults to read much of anything. It makes snatching up their willing bodies to serve in the military that much easier.

    In Texas, where I live, they read Ayn Rand. I'd burn one of her books just to avoid stepping outside to get wood. Actually, I'd burn one of her books just to look at the pretty light.

    What is true is that there are some newer YA books being put on reading lists. But the list(s) is not so extensive that any new author can hope to be featured on the numerous lists out there in any consistent fashion.

    I only know about the reading children are assigned because I went through the US school system, my son went through the school system, and I answer questions online as an English "expert". Many of the people I chat with are in middle grade and high school.
     
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  13. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Yes, I went through the US school system, too. Trained as a teacher in Michigan, taught teacher ed in in Pennsylvania, so I know the system as it was up to 12 years ago when I left. My nieces and nephews are in the NJ system at the moment, and I know they have lots of required reading over summer. They are voracious readers, though, and knock back all their required reading in a few weeks, then do beta reading for me :) But the question is, aside from the reading nerds, are teens reading many books these days? The US-based agents seemed to think they're doing plenty of reading, but it's all on line. And I suppose that's what matters to me--what the agents think--because they're the gatekeepers.
     
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  14. Chase Gamwell

    Chase Gamwell Venerated Member Staff Member

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    I think the honest answer to this question is "not really". There are definitely still TONS of reading nerds out there (I have a friend that buys so many books on his kindle), but I think the general person doesn't do all that much reading.

    I'll use myself as an example.

    I grew up in the US education system and read all of the books on the required reading list. I even read plenty of books on the optional reading list. I was encouraged by my parents to read and write as often as possible, and this trend of voraciously consuming books continued through high school. When I reached college, however, my consumption of books took a nosedive. I was spending so much time studying that the last thing I wanted to do was read more. So, I turned to more interactive entertainment (read: video games). There were exceptions, of course, but my reading never really picked back up. Even now, I read probably one or two books a year (not counting beta reads), which I know is a cardinal sin for writers. But I've come to a point where I'm insanely picky about what I read. Many of the books I was required to read when I was younger were hard to get through, but we didn't have a choice in whether we wanted to read them. If the book was boring, I couldn't stop. I had to finish it. Now, however, if I find a book boring, or if the content doesn't draw me in, I stop reading. This is the reason why I stopped The Song of Ice and Fire (book 4 was a waste of paper) and the reason I couldn't get past the second book of The Wheel of Time series (FAR too much exposition).

    I think this sentiment transfers to a lot of people my age. My wife reads - a mix of YA and adult fiction - but only occasionally. I have a friend who reads, but only one specific series (because he's a fan). I have another friend that reads, but he consumes mainly hard sci-fi. The most recent book series he read was the Imperial Radch series by Anne Leckie. Before that, I think it was the Hyperion Cantos...

    The point is that everyone reads some, but I'd be willing to bet that most of the media consumed these days consists of television and video games.

    ***

    On a separate note (and I'm putting this here because I couldn't figure out where to fit it in above), I don't think that YA is dead. If it was, I doubt that there would be so many movies and television shows being developed from YA content. And I think it's also worth mentioning that movies and television can go a long way in spurring interest in the market as well. I mean, I've seen people pick up a YA book because it looked similar to something else that was already popular.
     
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  15. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

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    Sounds like fun! I write MG so I´m thrilled. I have heard that they are moving away from YA fantasy and favouring real life issues. My two cents based on what i´ve heard. But, if it´s good, they´ll take anything! Now, it´s a bit different in each country, so depends on where you are sending your novel will change. Middle Grade is not the same in the US and UK. I don´t know how it works down under. Now, another thing is that every agent has their wishlist. You should go to the wishlist web page to get an idea on what people are looking for.
    Everything sell if it´s good enough.
    All that being said there is a trend toward publishing more MG simply because there is a great need for it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
  16. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

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    t can mean whatever you want it to mean, @James Marinero ;)
     
  17. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

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    Aha, but what if we´re talking vampire cats? Huh? then what? PEOPLE WILL BUY!
     
  18. Quillwitch

    Quillwitch Venerated Member

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    Teens read anything they can get their hands on if they are readers. But, what is TRUE is that IF your book is picked up by Scholastic then your books sells like hotcakes to all the schools in the US and Canada which is what happened with Harry Potter.
     
  19. Island Writer

    Island Writer Well-Known Member

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    What about the New Adult (18-30) category? Is this the 'new' YA?

    Does anyone here writes in this genre?
     
  20. Amber

    Amber Member

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    I never took New Adult seriously but I've been assured it's a real thing. I think of it as kids away at college discovering sex for the first time.
     
  21. Chase Gamwell

    Chase Gamwell Venerated Member Staff Member

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    Wouldn't it be easier to just lump most of this stuff into a new category called "light reading"? Heck...let's just completely redo the way books are categorized altogether! Problem solved? (or did I just create a whole lot more?)
     
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  22. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    How about 'books', 'big books', 'little books', 'books with dragons', 'books with puppies'...;)

    At the moment, I want a rating on books, like movies have. A couple of times now, I've picked up a book that looked promising, only to find that a hundred pages in, it devolved into graphic sex for no good reason. With my kids' penchant for reading every scrap of paper that enters the house, I hate that you can't tell from the book description whether something is appropriate for them or not. I have no problem with them reading about sex, but some of the things I've come across recently are not the sort of sex a young teen should be reading. Hell, the most recent one is something I wish I could unread.

    A couple of months ago, I heard an interview with New Zealand's Chief Censor (that's the guy who's in charge of rating movies, etc.). Apparently his office did a bunch of surveys and focus groups with teens and found that, while pretty much all of them had looked at things (on line, movies, etc) that they 'shouldn't' have, they were actually self-censoring a lot. They very much appreciated the ratings on movies, and particularly the explanation for the ratings, because then they could make informed decisions based on what they knew bothered them and what didn't. It was surprisingly sensible.

    It strikes me (from a consumer's point of view) that a similar rating system would be useful for books--rather than the wildly varied 'YA' (which isn't always communicated to the reader anyway...just to make it more confusing), how about a range of ratings like 'M16--sexual references, violence', 'PG13--supernatural themes', 'R18--graphic sex'.

    Anyway, just me rambling...
     
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  23. James Marinero

    James Marinero Venerated Member

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    S'funny, but when I was a YA I was reading Mickey Spillane, Hammond Innes, Alistair Maclean, Dennis Wheatley. Before that it was 'Secret Seven', 'Famous Five', Just William, Jennings & Darbyshire. Does anyone else remember them (I guess equivalent to Harry Potter without the magic)?
     
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  24. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Yep, I remember them. Though I was mostly a non-fiction sort of girl at YA age, so my reading list was populated more heavily by Time-Life books and my older cousin's university bio textbooks (which, like a complete nerd, I eagerly bought off her as soon as her classes were over).
     
  25. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I've been reading more YA and MG novels recently, as owing to space constraints my local library is now shelving them among the adult fiction. They're marked on the spine as being for the younger reader, but I was surprised at how many writers I only knew for their crime novels have written lots of children's stories. I already knew that the wonderful Carl Hiaasen had also penned several enjoyable junior adventures with a strong ecological theme, but was amazed to discover Jo Nesbo's juvenile output. His Harry Hole detective novels are some of the goriest around, so perhaps Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder provides him with some light relief.

    Not that all junior fiction is light reading. A couple of months ago, I ploughed through David Almond's The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. It's hard going, as the story is told in phonetically spelt English written by a child who's been locked away from the world for an unspecified reason. A sense of dread builds up, as a true innocent is gradually introduced to a world torn apart by nuclear apocalypse. It gave me the heebie-jeebies and I wondered how it would affect a child.

    It's encouraging when a book that was originally launched for younger readers is taken up by the world as having a useful message, such as Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd's A Monster Calls.
     
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  26. Chase Gamwell

    Chase Gamwell Venerated Member Staff Member

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    Because of this, I think a rating system would be a great idea. I bought a sci-fi series once and the first book was comprised of stuff no one my age (at the time) should have been reading about. But it's nearly impossible to tell that kind of stuff is going to be in a book when all you see on the cover is a spaceship.
     
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